I’m currently working my way through the IMDb Top 250, a user-voted list of the best 250 movies of all time. So far I’ve watched 86, so I’m about a third of the way through. Now it’s getting more difficult – not because these films are hard to find, but because the subject of so many of these movies are violence, sex, murder, crime, etc.
I’m not just meaning they deal with these issues. Schindler’s List (#8 on the Top 250) deals with terrible violence, but it doesn’t glorify like so many of the others do. I’m talking about films like Pulp Fiction, Fight Club, Se7en and Silence of the Lambs – all of which are within the top 25. I haven’t seen any of these yet, so I can’t comment on their qualities as a film. But it’s slightly worrying when around one-third of the greatest films ever seem obsessed with what we would normally call ‘evil’.
And so I have an hypothesis: we ‘love’ these films so much because they let us escape into a world where we can indulge in our ‘evil’ without any consequences. I do believe that part of the power of films is that we can ‘escape’ into them; we forget our real world for a while and become immersed in what we’re watching. We can ‘be’ a murderer, a mobster, a violent psychopath, and then return to our lives without anyone being any the wiser.
Films can be a wonderful, beautiful thing. They can also be a dangerous escape into our wildest fantasies. Though watching these films probably won’t make us into violent psychopaths, it will affect you. Films are, essentially, a mild form of indoctrination.
So are these ‘great’ films really great? Or do we have an unhealthy fascination with the forbidden?